Emay sold us from the go. Maybe it’s because his vocal style is similar enough to Javon Johnson’s. Definitely part of it is how charismatically honest he is with his personal struggles. And his beats will hook you in, so really, it’s easy to fall in line with Emay and his sound pretty quickly.

The emcee has stated a lot of influence for his debut LP Ilah stems from his struggle as a practicing Muslim in the modern world. “Israfil (or Angel’s Trumpet),” the first single from said LP, gives you a good look at this and other issues he’s dealing with. In the end, you feel like he’s going to power through it though.

The first battle is general productivity – money is saying one thing, but he changes the subject to something easier to think about. His ride has taken him around the world, where he’s spent plenty of time contemplating things. Hooks, soulful with undertones of horns, are flat-out sick. “It’s my time” is repeated in a lackadaisical tone. You know he believes it, but the tone captures the weight of soldiering forward really well.

Of course he fights with his religious identity within the lyrics, and clocking in at over five minutes, “Israfil…” is as much a short biography about coming up as it is an album single. Emay is patient in acknowledging now is his time. Guess we’ll find out soon enough. Joey Smith